Friday, July 16, 2010

Medical Missions 2010: Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico

       I had the blessing and the honor of serving our God in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico. Sinaloa is a nation roughly the size of Tennessee, but sadly only has about 33 churches. Under the leadership of Marco Vallejo, whom we had the awesome opportunity to serve with and live with for the week, each of these 33 churches are establishing “missions,” which hope to become fully functioning churches within 3 years.
       Throughout the week we set up 4 free clinics, mostly at the mission churches. The goal had two parts: (1) to heal the sick, both physically and spiritually, and (2) to attract and invite people to the mission churches who may not even go near the church otherwise.
       Most of the people of Sinaloa cannot afford proper healthcare or even the simple over-the-counter medications that they need. Countless people said to us that they knew that they needed to see the doctor but could not afford it. Fortunately, we were able to give everyone who came something that they could use to help ease their pain and suffering, but it came more and more evident to me as the week went on that it really wasn’t at all about what we could provide these people.
       It was about what God, the Great Physician, could supply them. God reveals to us in Psalm 41:3 that he will “sustain [His children] on [their] sickbed” and “in [their] illness restore [them] to full health.” This is something only the LORD can promise. No matter how many vitamins, antibiotics, and pain relievers we supplied these people, nothing could ever compare to the healing and loving nature of our God. And so, we made it an effort to pray with and for each patient individually and love on them the way that He loves on us. In the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 10, Jesus sends out the seventy-two and commands them to “heal the sick in [every town] and say to them ‘the kingdom of God has come near to you.’” If we were to minister effectively as missionaries and followers of Christ, we needed to not only attempt to heal these people, but to also make an effort to further His kingdom.
       The most memorable moments of this trip were praying with these people. I prayed over more people during that trip than I ever did in my entire life. Some people were more receiptive than others, but I have no doubts that in those moments the kingdom of God was brought nearer to them. One woman came back to me after I prayed over her, asking me to pray again and also for her son. Keep in mind the language barrier. Almost no one who came through our clinics could speak a word of English, and yet they still wanted to hear us pray for them in our language. Another man, after praying with me, thanked me and my whole team for the work we are doing for God and said (in Spanish) that “a prayer made in trust and in faith and in truth is worth more than any medicine the world can provide.” After I heard a friend of mine translate that for me, I was so overwhelmed. This man had suffered from three heart attacks and still believed in the power and faithfullness of God.
       One of the most emotional and memorable events of the trip involved a man named Salvador Lopez, who came to our triage table with pre-heart attack symptoms. He was immediately rushed to our nurse and given some aspirin. There was really nothing we could do for him except give him the little medicine we had, pray for him, and send him to the hospital. I still to this day wonder what would have happened to that man if God had not sent our team to set up that free clinic at that church. He probably would not have gone to the doctor, because he couldn’t afford it. He probably wouldn’t have gone to the hospital because he had no idea what was coming. God may have saved that man’s life that day.
       Aside from the amazing work done through helping their sickness, another part of our clinics was a “vision center.” Where we provided cheap, simple reading glasses for anyone that needed them. We used a Bible to test whether or not the people needed corrective lenses for reading. It hit us mid-way through the week during our reflection time that some people in this world can’t even read their Bible because they cannot see it. I cannot imagine what I would do if I couldn’t see the word and truth of God.
       This trip revolutionized the way I think about my faith, missions (especially through medicine), prayer, and the medical field. It reaffirmed God’s will for my life and reawakened my passions for medicine and ministry. The gospel may have been written 2000 years ago but the world is still the same. There are still countless sick that need healing and lost that need to be found. Christ calls us to reach out to these people and to fill their needs. God challenges us through James that “if a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? (James 2:15)” It felt so amazing to be apart of a ministry that I felt confident was the will of God. I hope to continue doing His will, through missions, my career, my relationships, my entire being.
       I feel like these scriptures, along with what I have experienced in Los Mochis can be applied to the American church. We often ask why there are so many lost in the world when we build churches and invite them and pray for them. God’s word says that we must fill their needs and love on them and get to know them before they will ever accept our messages of peace and truth. The lost can’t be found without knowing God; they can’t know him until they feel His love; they can’t feel His love until we give it to them; and they won’t accept the love we give them until we get to know them and their needs.
       God is so much greater than we can possibly ever know, and it has been a blessing to share with you a tiny bit of what I saw Him do in Mexico. God bless you!

In His unending love,
Zachary Akvan.